Woman Who Claimed RIAA Infringement Damages Were Unconstitutional Settles For $756/Song

from the cheaper-to-settle-than-to-fight dept

We were a bit surprised last month when Denise Barker, who had been fighting the RIAA in a file sharing lawsuit decided to take the strategy of admitting guilt but challenging the constitutionality of the Copyright Act. That seemed like a longshot that was unlikely to play well in court -- especially a court that had already decided against her in interpreting the whole "making available" thing. So, it should come as little surprise that Barker has agreed to settle, rather than fight on, even if her lawyer, Ray Beckerman was more than willing to keep fighting.

The settlement comes to $756 for each of the eight songs she's accused of sharing, and the details of the settlement work out that she'll be paying $110 per month for 55 months (running through February of 2013). That adds up to $6,050, which I imagine will put a crimp on Barker's spending on actual music. While she did break the law, and admitted to breaking the law, the punishment does seem way out of line with the "crime." It's arguable that she did any "damage" at all to the recording industry, as there's a decent chance that she actually helped promote certain artists.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Perry Epquin, Aug 18th, 2008 @ 11:19pm

    Is that it?

    Textbook publishers have been doing this for a while (www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abn/y05/m04/i25/s02) and already recieved several substantial judgements, one against a GA Tech student here (www.pearsoned.com/pr_2007/110507a.htm). These amounts are larger. I know you've all heard alot about this.

    Has this activity hurt their business? Well, you can decide for yourself here:(www.forbes.com/afxnewslimited/feeds/afx/2008/07/28/afx5258583.html) and here (www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/06/20/john-wiley-doubles-q4-profit-pier-1-narrows-q1-loss/).

    Clearly , they want only want to protect their authors, I think they've done a pretty good a job, you can read about that here (www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6522188.html).

     

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  2.  
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    Brian, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:14am

    Re: Is that it?

    Clearly , they want only want to protect their authors -Perry

    LoL. Protect the authors. Keep on tugging that sinking boat.

    Hope you're enjoying your nap.

     

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  3.  
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    tz, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:24am

    good for the RIAA, bad for the artist

    That's $110 she won't have to spend on going to the shows of her favourite artists (2 people, one show a month), after downloading the latest single for free-- which piqued her interest in the show in the first place. Further taking away one of the sources of near-direct sales from the musicians.

    Good job looking out for your artists, RIAA.

     

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  4.  
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    Russ Grover, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:33am

    What do you mean is that it?

    Your first reference is about somone who is SELLING Counterfit Coppies of Books. (MAKING MONEY) She had 8 Files SHARED on her PC and As far as I know they don't know how many people copied the file from her, if not then there is no damage. Remember Proof of burden... Now if she COPPIED those files from someone else, then yes, but $700.00 in damages?

    That's like your dog taking a dump on my lawn and I claim there's $10,000.00 in damages from your dog and I need compensation...

    I have no PROOF that there was that much damage.
    it's just what I BELIEVE I need to be compensated, because my whole LAWN now needs to be replaced.

    Unless IMO they can PROOF that she caused $700.00 in damages and thier bottom line DROPPED because of her 8 files IMO they don't have proof of damage...

    What is really STUPID is the 6K Damage. They Probably Spend 100 times that fighting her in court...

    For something there is probably no PROOF to begin with...
    (That she caused ACTUAL Damage)

    I hope she wins on the VAUGH law of making availble...

    So if anyone leaves their car or house unlocked, they are essentially Making the MEDIA Availble for theft?

    For that matter if the song is played over the air. Isn't that Making the Song Availbe to be Coppied?

     

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  5.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:38am

    Constitutionality of the Copyright Act?

    It's pretty clear the constitution gave no sanction for the reproduction monopolies granted by patent and copyright - see Mythologising Copyright, but even if its unconstitutionality is recognised, it's another matter entirely to have the invalidity of copyright law recognised. Some will argue that the constitution is a guide to legislation, rather than an absolute stricture.

    So, unfortunately, Denise is likely to discover what a snowball feels like in hell should she persist in this challenge, but I wish her luck. :)

     

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  6.  
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    x, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 1:54am

    Whycome?

    $756 per song!!!.. Why didn't it work as this case did http://techdirt.com/articles/20080806/0058081906.shtml ?

     

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  7.  
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    Kristin, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 2:01am

    when will the RIAA learn that they are doing more harm then good by all these lawsuits? I am sure this woman did not do 700.00 worth of damage per song. Not to mention that the RIAA is just advertising piracy by doing all this.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 4:00am

    Re: Is that it?

    The invisible sarcasm tag! Love it.

     

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  9.  
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    Free Thinker, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 5:02am

    Her name is Tenise, not Denise. The RIAA consistently mis-spelled her name. p2pnet sets the record straight, here:

    "The RIAA spelled her name incorrectly from Day One, persistently calling her Denise instead of Tenise."

    http://www.p2pnet.net/story/16761

    Those RIAA pricks can't even get that right. TechDirt should have picked up on this.

     

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  10.  
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    innocent bystander, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 5:28am

    Help Me Here

    I don't understand why some people think the settlement in this case means anything. As I understand it, Tenise agreed to the application and validity of the law and then settled on damages within the statutes' structure. Isn't that what is supposed to happen in a society that believes if you don't agree with its laws you change it by legislation. What's the big deal with this outcome? Sounds like those objecting to the statutory minimums did not get the outcome they wanted. Big deal.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 5:29am

    Re: What do you mean is that it?

    "So if anyone leaves their car or house unlocked, they are essentially Making the MEDIA Availble for theft?"

    No. Don't use the RIAA's own fallacies against them. It helps them more than it harms them.

    You are comparing an infinite good (digital media) to a scarce good (physical CD/Casette).

     

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  12.  
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    jb, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 5:38am

    Why pay them

    They cannot make her pay, she's retarded if she gives them 1 cent.

     

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  13.  
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    Ray Beckerman (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:41am

    Elektra v Barker decision

    Judge Karas agreed with Ms. Barker that the RIAA's 'making available' claim failed to state a claim for relief, and dismissed it, so I am not sure how you get to saying he "decided against her in interpreting the whole "making available" thing". Yes he gave the RIAA an opportunity to re-plead, and he did suggest a theory the RIAA might want to try in its amended complaint. But that's a far cry from deciding against Ms. Barker. He squarely decided the "making available" issue in favor of Ms. Barker and against the RIAA. No one knows what Judge Karas intended by the new theory he suggested -- "offering to distribute for purposes of distribution" -- since (a) there is no such theory in the casebooks, and (b) the Judge was silent as to what the RIAA would have to prove in order to establish (i) an offer, or (ii) an intention of it being redistributed by the person to whom it was 'offered'.

     

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  14.  
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    Willton, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:53am

    Re: Elektra v Barker decision

    Mike's not very good at getting all the facts right.

     

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  15.  
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    mobiGeek, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    Re: Help Me Here

    If one doesn't agree with the existing laws, then this case does mean something as it highlights the problem that they perceive to exist.

    For those people, this case becomes an example of the wrong-headedness of the existing law in that the penalty seems excessive given the accusation and the lack of proof of any actual damage.

    In addition, this is one of the first cases of this type to come to a close.

    What is there that is difficult to understand there?

     

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  16.  
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    Craig, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    PayPal Donate anyone?

    How long would it take to drum up a few thousand folks willing to chip in a couple of bucks to give to her to pay her settlement?

    I'd happily donate some loonies (Canadian dollars). I wonder if anyone has told her that she should put up a web site and tell her story?

     

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  17.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 9:17am

    Re: Elektra v Barker decision

    Judge Karas agreed with Ms. Barker that the RIAA's 'making available' claim failed to state a claim for relief, and dismissed it, so I am not sure how you get to saying he "decided against her in interpreting the whole "making available" thing".

    Ray, we discusssed this when the ruling first came out. The judge basically said "yes, making available isn't infringement but...." and went on to define every other aspects of the process in a negative way for your client. The judge specifically defined publishing as the same as distribution, and then defined the actions in question as publishing. It was decided against your interpretation in almost every way, other than in name.

     

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  18.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 9:18am

    Re: Re: Elektra v Barker decision

    Mike's not very good at getting all the facts right.

    Willton, I know you enjoy trying to prove me wrong, but before you claim such a thing, you might want to try looking at the actual facts. In this case, I was correct. There is almost no way to read that decision without recognizing that the judge was deciding against what Barker and Beckerman had wanted. Even the EFF complained that the ruling was a win for the RIAA.

     

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  19.  
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    laughing willow, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Re: good for the RIAA, bad for the artist

    AGREED!!!!!

    i long ago abandoned paying for CDs or mp3s - i only download trade-friendly bands, and borrow CDs from friends. i never publicly share, but i wish i could.

    it's best to just enjoy live music, and leave the recorded stuff alone, because most bands make most of their money from concerts, not royalties, anyway.

     

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  20.  
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    RayBeckerman (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    Not correct

    Mike said:In this case, I was correct.

    No, you were not correct, you misspoke. But I guess if you say you are correct, it must be so.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Help Me Here

    As I understand it, Tenise agreed to the application and validity of the law...
    Are you making that up or do you have a credible reference for it? The linked article says no such thing.

     

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  22.  
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    Joe Schmoe, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 2:42pm

    "...That's like your dog taking a dump on my lawn and I claim there's $10,000.00 in damages from your dog and I need compensation..."

    heheh, no, in RIAA logic it's "I have a lawn and you have a dog that 'could' poop on my lawn, therefore I deserve compensation."

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Not correct

    Mr. Beckerman:

    How could you possibly know what happened? You were merely trial counsel and familiar with all aspects of the case, both of fact and law.

    Only persons with an imprecise knowledge of the facts and law are permitted to express authoritative opinions.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Perry Epquin, Aug 19th, 2008 @ 3:09pm

    Re: What do you mean is that it?

    It doesn't matter. Read copyright law. Otherwise play a DVD of your favourite movie that clearly states 'infringement without monetary gain'. It doesn't matter if something was being sold or not in the light of copyright law distribution is distribution.

    Also, under copyright law the very minimum she could be fined is $750 per instance. In addition, that is for each item that was infringed not the number of times it was infringed. That is why the 'making available' argument is such a critical decision.

    You are absolutely incorrect that there needs to be actual damages. Just read up on copyright law, statutory damages ($750 - $30,000) can be awarded by the court if infringement is proved. There is no burden of proof in a civil lawsuit. In a civil lawsuit you just need to be 51% right in your argument. You are constantly inaccurate in your perception of copyright law and civil litigation. She actual recieved a judgement against 28 songs. However, in this settlement they are agreeing to settle to 8. These cases are instrumental in deciding what exactly infringement is... And yes, if you keep your car unlocked and your house unlocked and someone steals from your house, its theft. Case closed. However, companies that provide you or themselves make electronic copies need to understand that they are and will likely be distributed.

    People do not understand that fighting the right thing is NOT the same as fighting the legality portion of it. Therefore that kid from GA Tech with a $300,000-400,000 judgement against him is VERY unjust. And no, they are counterfeit per se. The publishers provide electronic copies of these items. Haven't you heard of e-books the publishers are now offering? Unfortunately, when they make a release about it, since they won the case, they can claim whatever they want.

     

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  25.  
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    Mike (profile), Aug 19th, 2008 @ 6:17pm

    Re: Not correct

    No, you were not correct, you misspoke

    I did not misspeak. The judge ruled in a manner that gave the RIAA exactly what it wanted. I don't see how that's ruling in the favor of Barker.

     

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  26.  
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    r, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 4:31am

    we really need ipod tax to solve this crap.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: What do you mean is that it?

    distribution is distribution.

    But it's unclear that "making available" is distribution.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:15am

    Re:

    If you misspell someones name in a court filing, isn't it invalid?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Re: Help Me Here

    if you don't agree with its laws you change it by legislation.

    Our courts are also a check against wrongful legislation, which is why she was pressing the unconstitutional angle. The point wasn't just that she (or we) disagreed with the law, but she felt the constitution precluded such a law from ever being passed. The settlement is a big deal because, in addition to what others have said, it highlights the apparent fact that regular people are at a distinct disadvantage not because of the merits of the laws or the facts of their case, but because it's prohibitively expensive to fight a legal battle. $6,010 over five years was more palatable than arguing her case.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 20th, 2008 @ 11:23am

    Re: PayPal Donate anyone?

    To pay her settlement? No, I wouldn't contribute to such a fund. But if she asked for help in funding her battle against the RIAA, that something I would happily pay into for the next five years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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